July 27, 2009 7:56PM

What Keeps Poor Kids Out of College?

In his Washington Post column today, Jay Mathews suggests that poverty isn’t what keeps poor, especially urban kids out of college. The problem according to Mathews, is that too few schools prepare these kids to enter and succeed in college in the first place. True, so far as it goes. But, no doubt due to his long‐​standing aversion to writing about policy rather than individuals, Jay neglects to mention the policy solution to the problem he has correctly identified.

There’s ample econometric evidence showing that private schools boost high school graduation rates, college acceptance rates, and college graduation rates, especially for urban minorities, over the levels seen in public schools (and after appropriate controls for student and family background). Policies that give these studens easier access to private schools should thus improve their college prospects significantly.

And you know what, there’s even a way for Jay to write this up as a human interest story: just interview kids from the DC voucher program who credit it with helping them get into college. And perhaps ask them what they think of the fact that Congress, ed. sec. Duncan, and president Obama have decided to kill the program that gave them a boost up the ladder to higher education.